Robert A. Heinlein
Tunnel in the Sky (1955)
Reviewed: 1996-02-27

It's the 21st century. The invention of the Ramsbotham gate has opened portals to many alien worlds throughout the galaxy. Earth can't feed her ever growing population, but those new worlds might just be able to. Rod Walker is one of many students taking their final exam in "Advanced Survival", a required course for any career relating to the colonization of new planets. Walk through a gate onto alien soil, spend a few days there, go to the retrieval gate, return home, test passed. It is exciting, it may be dangerous, but it is routine.

This time it isn't. No return gate appears. A few dozen young men and women, age 16 through 23, are stranded on an alien world. The task of surviving for a few days turns into one of carving a continued existence from unforgiving nature. People have to team up, eventually a small community forms, leadership conflicts arise, new challenges and dangers appear in time. Will they ever be able to return? Would they ever want to return?

Only slightly aged, Tunnel in the Sky is still likely to be a favorite with the juvenile audience it was written for. From an adult viewpoint it is a pleasant little novel, although it smacks of oversimplification of the problems involved in our heroes' predicament. As usual for this kind of Heinlein book, it contains some good advice, like the introductory discussion of "fairness", people of any age should take to heart.

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Christian "naddy" Weisgerber <>